PITTSBURGH (AP) -The Pittsburgh Penguins made the first move to keep their core group of young players together, reaching terms Sunday with restricted free agent defenseman Ryan Whitney on a $24 million, six-year contract that will pay him most of his money at the end of the deal.
Whitney is to make $2.5 million in the 2007-08 season, with his salary rising from there. By backloading the contract, the Penguins improve their ability to re-sign stars Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Jordan Staal before they become free agents in five or six years, yet stay under the salary cap.
Giving Whitney a six-year contract assures the Penguins of keeping him for at least one season past when he would have become eligible for free agency.
Whitney finished sixth among NHL defensemen with 59 points (14 goals, 45 assists) last season, and has 20 goals and 77 assists in 149 career games. Whitney and Sergei Gonchar give the Penguins two of the NHL's top offensive defensemen, with Gonchar getting 13 goals and 54 assists last season. Gonchar has three seasons remaining on his $25 million, five-year deal.
With rookie defenseman Kris Letang apparently ready to play in the NHL after getting a brief trial at the start of last season, the Penguins would like to add another veteran defenseman who doesn't need to score a lot. Among those on the market is Detroit's Danny Markov.
The Penguins reportedly agreed to two-year deals with forward Petr Sykora and defenseman Darryl Sydor.
With Crosby winning the NHL scoring title and MVP award last season, and Malkin and Staal enjoying excellent rookie seasons, the Penguins made the playoffs for the first time since 2001. They won 47 games after winning only 22 in 2005-06, the fourth best turnaround in NHL history.
Whitney had left wrist surgery in April but is expected to be ready for the start of training camp in September.

Top NHL Public Bets

NHL Top Stories

Thumbnail Updated Stanley Cup Odds The Stanley Cup Playoffs are down to their final eight teams. Here is an updated look at the odds to claim the Cup as we enter the...
Thumbnail Leafs vs. Capitals Game 6 Pick Will the Washington Capitals put the Toronto Maple Leafs away for good when the two meet in Game 6 today at...
Thumbnail Senators vs. Bruins Game 6 Pick Can the Boston Bruins force a Game 7 with the Ottawa Senators when the two meet today for Game 6 at 3PM ET?
Thumbnail Oilers vs. Sharks Game 6 Pick Will the San Jose Sharks force a Game 7 when they meet the Edmonton Oilers tonight at 10:30PM ET in Game 6?
Thumbnail Canadiens vs. Rangers Game 6 Pick Will the New York Rangers close out their series with the Montreal Canadiens when the two meet in Game 6...

NHL Team Pages